As humans, we are part of the natural world, and when our nervous system feels organized & well-regulated, we are able to feel present and responsive to the ever-changing environment with agency & engagement.
When we find it difficult to feel at ease, we may have the effects of stress or unresolved trauma in our system. Somatic Experiencing helps to restore a feel of this natural flow, connecting us with an innate process to reset our nervous system and release trauma.
Somatic Experiencing was developed by Peter Levine as a method to address trauma in the body and psyche.
He observed that animals in the wild are able to release traumatic experiences and come out of fight, flight and freeze states naturally whereas humans can accumulate the effects of unresolved activation of the autonomic nervous system in our bodies & psyche.
Levine developed a way to support completion and resolution of this nervous system charge, helping us to come out of survival physiology and restoring a sense of connection to ourself.
As we experience life there are many circumstances and difficulties that can take us off of our centre - this can result in anything from a gentle "not feeling quite right" to finding it extremely difficult to live in our body from day to day.
Dr. Gabor Mate, an author and speaker on trauma, talks of the loss of connection to ourselves as a potential outcome of trauma, and that healing comes through this reconnection back into relationship with ourselves.
Through SE we acknowledge the remarkable ability we have to adapt as best we can though overwhelming circumstances - to see resilience is present already, and then to see how we can support a deeper healing as we work toward completion, integration & reconnection to ourselves.
The focus of Somatic Experiencing is to renegotiate what wants to be processed in our body & psyche, and to do so as we stay present within an awareness of our capacity so that we are not re-traumatized. One of the hallmarks of SE is to be able to work with a little activation or charge as we stay within a window of tolerance or an honouring of the nervous system to support the ability to integrate the work we do.
One way to do this is to slow down movements & storytelling to gage if they can be worked with. This means that the practitioner may at times interrupt, supporting the process to stay connected to an inner wisdom that is organized and functional. It is often in the slowing down of the story-telling that we notice other information become available for a sense of a completion of the trauma, and a feeling of empowerment as we engage with the process. These are the "a-ha moments" and the places of reconnection to ourselves that can bring healing and a renewed energy.
The unique experiences each of us have, and the best response in any particular moment to relate to these experiences is best resolved when centred from within us - the SE practitioner is truly just a guide along the way to support connection to this inner wisdom so we can in the best way possible move forward in life.
The framework in SE for the language of working with stress & trauma is SIBAM which stands for:
S - sensations (the primary way of an embodied approach is tracking sensations that we feel in our body)
I - images (often people will experience images or colours as the process unfolds)
B - behaviour (movements of the body that come during the session like hands moving as the person talks)
A - affect or emotion (these come up naturally throughout the session in response to sensations & content)
M - meaning-making or story (memories can arise that help give more context & understanding, and as
experiences are integrated, there is an ability within us to take our own meaning from them - even if the
circumstance itself is unredeemable, there can be internal strength cultivated as we find our way through)
Identifying our resources is a way to help us stay present so that we have the capacity to be with the process and so that we can integrate the work done in the session. Each person may have different expressions of resourcing and examples could be: noticing when our body feels freer and letting that be experienced; orienting to something in the room that brings enjoyment like a painting on the wall or the colour of a throw pillow etc.; bringing a beloved pet to mind or a favourite activity - these resources will be explored with the practitioner during the session.
Riding the wave is a familiar metaphor that helps us to realize that there is a beginning, an end and an overall flow to experiencing changes in our sensations, emotions and the physiology of our body. Polyvagal Theory was developed by the the neuroscientist Dr. Stephen Porges and provides a mapping of the responses of our autonomic nervous system as we navigate what is safe and what is potentially threatening. It is a helpful theory to help us learn to track what we need as we move through life and I highly recommend watching Youtube videos of him and also SEP Irene Lyon.
Somatic Experiencing techniques can be used for inquiry, discernment, finding our purpose...any time we need to connect with our inner wisdom to find our way through on our life journey, the connection with our deeper self can be accessed with an SE exploration.
From Anne-Marie: I have been a Somatic Experiencing Practitioner since 2015 and an Integral Development Coach since 2011. I bring to my Coaching and SE over 30 yrs. of experience as an Occupational Therapist with a depth of knowledge of both physical and mental illnesses and conditions.
I have practiced and trained in various forms of meditation, self- inquiry and inner work for over 25 years and this has taught me the value and healing capacity that being present in the moment without judgement allows. I am constantly re-inspired by the innate capacity we have to heal from past trauma. My desire is to help you to tap into your own inner resources and experience the wholeness that is in the core of your Being.
I offer sessions that are a combination of coaching, education, inquiry and mindful self- awareness. You will be invited to listen to your body as we explore unresolved issues that may be at the root of current life limiting beliefs and patterns. Sessions are usually 90 minutes long and can be helpful for anyone wanting to gain more self -understanding, or experience more ease and reduce symptoms of dysregulated emotions and stress.
From Nicola: I am a bodywork therapist informed by my training in Somatic Experiencing. The trauma work I offer is through Somatic Experiencing Touch which includes verbal consent as well as listening to cues from the body to guide the process. Somatic Experiencing makes it possible to listen to the nuances of what needs to happen to heal and support an embodied connection.
My work is influenced by Mindful Self-Compassion and contemplative awareness.
I continue to do the work of my own learning, healing, and self-regulation, and I am an advocate for bringing trauma-informed awareness into families, the communities we live in, and the world.
Anne-Marie & Nicola are both training next year with Kathy Kain in her Touch Skills Training for Trauma Therapists.